German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (R) and French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (C) listen to German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel during a joint meeting of European Union foreign and interior ministers at the EU Council in Brussels, Belgium March 6, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Vidal(reuters_tickers)
BERLIN (Reuters) - German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's claim that Germany owes NATO and the United States "vast sums" of money for defence.
"There is no debt account at NATO," von der Leyen said in a statement, adding that it was wrong to link the alliance's target for members to spend 2 percent of their economic output on defence by 2024 solely to NATO.
"Defence spending also goes into UN peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against IS terrorism," von der Leyen said.
She said everyone wanted the burden to be shared fairly and for that to happen it was necessary to have a "modern security concept" that included a modern NATO but also a European defence union and investment in the United Nations.
Trump said on Twitter on Saturday - a day after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington - that Germany "owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defence it provides to Germany!"
Trump has urged Germany and other NATO members to accelerate efforts to meet NATO's defence spending target.
German defence spending is set to rise by 1.4 billion euros to 38.5 billion euros in 2018 - a figure that is projected to represent 1.26 percent of economic output, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said.
In 2016, Germany's defence spending ratio stood at 1.18 percent.
During her trip to Washington, Merkel reiterated Germany's commitment to the 2 percent military spending goal.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; writing by Michelle Martin; editing by Jason Neely)